Selinum wallichianum is a plant that combines strength and structure with delicate refinement.
All who see it are smitten by it, and even those with a blind spot for umbels cannot help but be attracted by its subtle charms. It has had high praise from some of the most discriminating of gardeners. E A Bowles called it ". . . the queen of all umbellifers, with its almost transparent tender green-ness and the marvellously lacy pattern of its large leaves . . . the most beautiful of all fern-leaved plants".
Formerly known as S. tenuifolium, it rises later in the spring than most perennials. But, once it has decided to get up, it briskly spreads out its basal leaves to form a neat mat. Each leaf is intricately divided, making large deep-green lacy doilies. During late summer, the flower buds emerge, inverted and cradled by the supporting pinky-bronze stems.
The flower stems then begin to straighten and extend until the fat buds are held horizontally. Each flower head becomes a plateau composed of a number of smaller florets, which in turn are made up of a myriad of tiny flowers. The flower heads, perfect circles composed of smaller circles, attract butterflies and all manner of pollinators to the garden.
Selinum thrives in most soils relishes good deep soil and does best where the drainage is sharpest. It appreciates a humus-rich mulch of home-made compost but needs no other attention. Staking is unnecessary even in an exposed site.
It has a reputation for reliability and longevity and can hold its own as an isolated specimen (as William Robinson suggested in The English Flower Garden) or take its place among other herbaceous plants as a team player - although one cannot help thinking it would always be made captain.
Sowing: Sow seed in cool weather in autumn or early spring.
Sow seeds very finely onto the surface of pots containing moist seed compost. 'Just cover' with a sprinkling of sieved soil (1/16th in) and maintain an optimum temperature of 10°C (50°F)
Keep moist, watering from the base of the container but do not saturate the compost. Germination is usually around 14 to 50 days, but may take a little longer.
Remove the cover once the seedlings begin to germinate to allow air to circulate, otherwise they may suffer from damping off disease. Keep in light but not strong sunlight, a warm kitchen windowsill is often sufficient.
Thin (prick out) seeds as they become large enough to handle, leaving the seed trays intact for other seedlings that may germinate later. Use 7cm (3in) pots containing well-drained compost mix. You can add 10% horticultural sand (that doesn’t contain salt) to a regular compost to achieve this.
Harden off young plants gradually for 10 to 15 days before planting out. In poor soil it is worth incorporating some organic matter before planting.
Water deeply to encourage roots to grow deeply, resulting in a healthier, more drought tolerant plant. Avoid overhead watering if possible.
Selinum are members of the Apiaceae family, which generally dislike being moved. Although you can relocate them when they are dormant, try to make sure they are in the right place before you plant.
It relishes good deep soil and, when treated well, will reach to around 120cm (48in) in height and half as much across. Full flowering starts in the second year.
It is good to give S. Wallichianum a position where, although it may be in the midst of other plants, it gets the opportunity to show off its greatest asset, its multi-storey structure. To back it against a curtain of taller plants would be to lose its in-the-round sculptural quality.
Apply a generous 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant in early spring. Remove faded flowerheads and cut back dying foliage in autumn.
Beds and borders, Prairie and naturalistic Garden, Cottage/Informal, Wildlife, Bee and Butterfly gardens. Gravel garden, Low-maintenance.
Selinum wallichianum has been in cultivation for well over a century since its introduction from the Himalayas where it grows in scrub and mountain meadows at altitude.
The genus name Selinum is the Greek word for celery and parsley.
The species wallichianum is named for Dr Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), a respected surgeon and botanist of Danish origin who worked in India, initially in the Danish settlement near Calcutta and later for the East India Company. Wallich was appointed assistant to William Roxburgh, the East India Company's botanist in Calcutta. By 1813 he had become interested in the flora of India, and undertook expeditions to Nepal, West Hindustan, and lower Burma. He was involved in the early development of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, describing many new plant species and developing a large herbarium collection which was distributed to collections in Europe.
Wallich retired to England, where he was a Fellow of both the Linnean Society (1818) and the Royal Society (1829). Several of the plants that he collected were named after him and the genus Wallichia consisting of three Himalayan palms was named in his honour. Today, Wallich's personal collection is housed at the Kew Herbarium as the Wallich Collection.
Formerly known as Selinum tenuifolium, tenuifolium means ‘with finely-divided, slender leaves’.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 20 Seeds Family Apiaceae Genus Selinum Species wallichianum Synonym Selinum wallichianum subsp. tenifolium
Formerly known as Selinum tenuifolium
Common Name Wallich milk parsley Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers White umbels Natural Flower Time July until late October Foliage Intricately divided, large deep-green leaves and pinky-bronze stems. Height 120cm (48in) Spread 60cm (24in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil Any reasonable moist, free draining garden soil. Time to Sow Sow in autumn or early spring.